As frustrating as it may be, your credit score is one of the most significant measurements used to ascertain multiple aspects of your life as a consumer. From what rate you’re offered to being able to get a credit card, having a weak credit score can inhibit you from making certain important purchases.
A post by Lexington Law argues that not all credit repairing services are a scam, so that may be a great resource to help you raise your credit score. If you’d like to try it on your own first, however, here are twelve ways to help you raise this ever-important statistic.
1. Keep your credit card balances low.
Nearly one-third of Americans have “bad” credit scores (under 600). This is largely because the percentage of revolving credit available that they use is too high, which is a major factor in your credit score. To keep your score healthy, keep your credit balances below 30% of your available credit.
2. Cut down on the number of credit cards.
The average American adult has $3,805 of credit card debt, often on multiple cards. Another good way to boost your credit score is to get rid of the small balances you may have on these multiple credit cards. One thing your score considers is how many of your credit cards have balances, so paying off some of your cards will help.
3. But sometimes, get another card.
On the other hand, sometimes getting another credit card can help out your credit score, since your credit utilization rate is so important in the final score. If you take out just one extra card – don’t open a ton of accounts, or it’ll hurt your score for the above reason – you can drop how much of your credit you’re using per card. 70% of American consumers have at least one credit card, but many of them have more to help out their score.
4. Time your credit applications strategically.
Noncash payments increased about 5.3% a year between 2012 and 2015, which means that fewer people are using cash and debit transactions. Instead, they’re applying for credit. If you need to file credit applications for a home, car, or student loan, you should make those applications around the same time to avoid dinging your credit. Every credit application lowers your score slightly, but with those three loan types making multiple applications within a short span is forgiven.
5. Don’t look risky.
Sometimes, all you need to do to improve your credit score is just avoid looking risky to credit bureaus. A significant risky behavior that can negatively affect your score is missing credit payments – in 2015, about 2% of credit card holders under 30 hadn’t paid their bill in over 90 days. You should also avoid paying less or charging more on your card than you normally do to protect your score.
6. Fix any mistakes.
As of March 2014, 60% of American adults hadn’t reviewed their credit score within the previous year. You should check your credit reports annually from all three credit bureaus, and examine them closely. Check if there are any errors like unpaid bills that you know you paid off, and dispute any mistakes you find to improve your score.
7. Pay on time, every time.
It’s extremely important that you pay all of your bills on time in order to raise your credit score. 52% of survey respondents reported always paying their credit cards in full in 2015, and you should be one of those people if you want a high credit rating.
8. Pay more than once a month.
One of the frustrating things about credit scores is that even if you pay off your credit card each month, creditors only report balances to the credit bureaus once a month. This means that if you run up a big balance, it could look like you’re overusing your credit even if you plan to pay it off in full. To avoid this, send in a credit card payment at least twice a month so your balance never gets too high. And you don’t need to feel stuck to one payment method – more than 90% of households use more than one payment method to pay off their bills.
9. Trust the concept of “good debt.”
About 19% of the population doesn’t have any credit, which isn’t a good thing – you need to have at least a little bit of debt at times to build up a credit score. Some people mistakenly think that old debt on their credit report hurts their scores, so they try to get it off the report as soon as it’s paid. However, “good debt” that you’ve handled well actually boosts your credit score, so you should leave that old debt on your report as long as you can.
10. Negotiate your balances.
Sometimes, you make a mistake and your bills end up in debt collections – this happens with about 13.6% of consumers. Luckily, you can do damage control by negotiating your debt balances with collectors. Sometimes, you can lower your balance enough to be able to pay it off.
11. Increase your credit limit.
There’s another approach to improving your credit utilization rate: ask for a credit limit increase. For people with prime credit, which is the average, the average bank card limit on new cards was $5209 in Q1 2015. This means that many people have the option to get a higher limit so that the percent of credit used will drop, helping out your credit score.
12. Don’t worry too much.
36% of people think there’s no reason to check their credit score. Although this isn’t true, it isn’t necessary to obsess about it. You should pay close attention to your score when you know you’ll need credit within the next few months, but if you won’t soon be looking for credit, then just practice good habits and your score will rise on its own.
Working on your credit score certainly isn’t the most fun thing to think about, but it’s necessary in this day and age. By following these tips, you can keep your score healthy and useful.
What are some other ways to protect or improve your credit score?